The Introduction is the hardest part of any reviews, Ive not spoken to one member of our team who hasn't had difficulties let alone actually enjoys this part. We rattle on about the same old details about the manufacturer in question, with larger companies the details hardly really change much.
We recently had the Noctua NH-D14 the flagship of their heatsink range and it won many fans here on the OC3D team, so it could be seen as brave that Noctua found it in their interests to send us the NH-C12P SE14. We actually have reviewed the NH-C12P cooler before so you may find it strange we find the need to review it again albeit with a different fan? Can it make that's much difference to performance? We will have to wait for the results to find out. One thing we can test though is the coolers abilities to be able to cope with the sudden surge of new hardware that has been released since this cooler originally emerged.
So with completely clean sheet we will be looking at the NH-C12P SE14 on our new test bench and maybe a few others as well. So here comes the time to copy and paste some specifications from the Noctua website:
Socket compatibility Intel LGA1366, LGA1156, LGA775 & AMD AM2, AM2+, AM3 (backplate required)
Height (without fan) 90 mm
Width (without fan) 126 mm
Depth (without fan) 152 mm
Height (with fan) 114 mm
Width (with fan) 140 mm
Depth (with fan) 152 mm
Weight (without fan) 550 g
Weight (with fan) 730 g
Material Copper (base and heat-pipes), aluminium (cooling fins), soldered joints & nickel plating
Fan compatibility 140x140x25mm / 120x120x25mm
Scope of Delivery NF-P14 premium fan
Low-Noise Adaptor (L.N.A.)
Ultra-Low-Noise Adaptor (U.L.N.A.)
NT-H1 high-grade thermal compound
SecuFirm2™ Mounting Kits
Noctua Metal Case-Badge
Warranty 6 Years
Lets move on and get our second first look at this cooler!
Starting with the box it is actually very understated, mainly white with the main specifications and a pair of viewing windows, one showing the fan and the other parts of the heatsink.
The first thing that caught my eye was the two sections either side of the heatsink that almost look 'missing'. Noctua call these high airflow gaps, but they are actually there to give you access to the mounting screws.
The base and the mount is identical to that on the NH-D14, and they even share the same amount and size of heatpipes so provisionally it seems to be ticking all the right boxes.
In the centre there is a section of the heatsink fins that carry on right down to the cpu plate, a clever idea as the air is forced downwards anyways, it may as well go to some good use and help cool the CPU that little bit more.
The NH-C12P now comes fitted with the excellent NF-P14 fan that's 140mm in diameter but cleverly has 120mm mounts. The edges of the fan do slightly extend over the main body of the heatsink, but the main reason for heatsinks that follow the face down design is reduced height but it also carry the bonus of actively cooling components around the socket.
Lets move on to fitting and testing.
The Noctua mounting system is very good, and thanks to its simple design it does also mean that space permitting you can turn the heat sink round to best suit your needs.
We chose to fit our cooler the way shown in the picture for 2 reasons, it shows you the worst case scenario with ram clearance near the heat pipes. Should you have taller ram you can simply rotate the heat sink. Secondly fitted in this way means the heat sink hangs over our mosfets, which is better to give the ever welcome flow of air to help keep them cooler.
When fitted with the fan the cooler is no higher than a normal height GPU, so perfect for HTPC applications, there's plenty of clearance on all sides of the cooler, so you should not encounter any issues even in said HTPC environment.
4ghz 200x20 1.35v
3.6ghz 180x20 1.3v
2.8ghz 133x21 1.2v
For testing we use our new addition to the test bench the i7 930, we always test a 4ghz so that was a good place to start. It became quickly apparent that this cooler was really struggling even at 12v to dissipate the heat produced at these clocks. 88c was reached very quickly, and trying to run low speed tests the temps soon hit 90c and the PC shut down.
To see what the cooler is capable of we decided to test at 3.6GHZ and also at stock to be able to make some comparisons. At 3.6GHZ with a 1.3vcore the cooler managed a 80c max load temperature with the fan at 12v, dropping the fan to 9v and 750rpm yet again the cooler hit 90c and the PC shut down. At stock the results we where we would prefer, 60c at 12v and 73c at 750rpm.
Looking at these results its simple to see the cooler can not cope with an overclocked i7 930, but when staring at the height of the cooler and reminding myself that this cooler is perfect for HTPC systems I thought it might be a good idea to test it in the environment it was designed for...
Zotac have recently released a M-ITX H55 motherboard and this cooler would be perfect in a small compact system. Sadly not having a Zotac to hand I was forced to use a Asus P7H57D-V Evo we had here for a future server system. We ran the cooler in a normal ATX case but with no fans to simulate a worst case scenario in a HTPC. Lets take a look at the settings we used in the i3 test system.
4ghz 182x22 1.3v
3.6ghz 165x22 1.25v
2.9ghz 133x22 1.2v
Even with the i3 overclocked to 4ghz i was gobsmacked with the temperatures, the Noctua really comes into its own here. Even with a 4ghz overclock and the fan at 750rpm, which I might add is as close to inaudible as you will ever get, the NH-C12P still kept the temperatures below a gob smacking 50c. Dropping the clocks just kept dropping the temps even further.
So that's the testing done, lets head over the page and wrap this surprising review up.
The conclusion here is simple and yet also very difficult. If you were looking at buying the NH-C12P SE14 for a system with an overclocked I7 processor then quite simply, don't. It just can not dissipate the heat fast enough and there are better coolers from both Noctua like the NH-D14 and other manufacturers as well. However if you want to keep your i7 at standard clocks but just want silence then is absolutely perfect for the job, with a maximum temperature of 73c with the fan at minimum you will have no complaints.
Now the curve ball, it is a low height cooler ideally suited to a HTPC configuration. The perfect companion for this kind of set up is the new i3 530 from Intel with an integrated GPU. When tested with this CPU even with a 4GHZ overclock the cooler just takes this in its stride and manages to keep all temps to a maximum of 48c. With this set up and these results it even had me gobsmacked. Yet again Noctua have brought us a cooler that's perfect for the application it was designed for. With a maximum height of 114mm with the fan fitted you should not have any problems fitting it in your HTPC as almost the same height that a GPU will stand out from the motherboard.
So if it's silence you you are looking for or a HTPC cooler then the NH-C12P SE14 is absolutely perfect. Yet again Noctua have sent me a heatsink that is so good I'm going to continue using it in the server system you will all be seeing more of very shortly. Because of that I'm happy to give this the coveted Editors Choice award. Quite simply because in the right system this would be the editors choice!
- Low Height
- Easy to fit
- Cools surrounding components
- Awesome build quality
- As close to silent as youll ever get with an air cooler
- Perfect cooler for a HTPC/Silent system
- i3 Temps were nothing short of amazing
- Cant cope with an overclocked i7
- Nothing that Ive found!
Thanks to Noctua for the sample today, you can discuss this review and many others in our forums.